She was standing to my left as I drove out of my house, my neck twisted in an odd angle like most Nigerian drivers. We never quite figured how to use our mirrors for reversing, it seems to me that in our mind, the mirrors cannot be trusted. Didn’t the white man himself wrote that object in the mirrors may appear closer than they are? Anyway, my neighbor, one of those people that can look serene in the most chaotic scene walked to the passenger side and tried to explain what had happened to her car while in the same sentence sought to find out where I was going and if I could give her a ride. It turned out her car had broken down the previous night because it seemed to have finally recognized it wasn’t built to swim, or rather it could only swim for so long.
This water is crazy, it is insane! How can we live like these? Anyway, you must all be at home with the ranting of the Nigerian middle class by now. Well travelled and well read, they know their rights or so they tell themselves. What they don’t know or pretend not to know is their obligation, not just to themselves but to the masses. Yes, it is the duty of those who know to tell, to teach and more importantly, to act. That’s a story for another day, a story which, if written, will be titled ‘a revolution in search of a leader’ or something along that line.
So what has the flooding of Lagos metropolis got to do with Fashola? Let’s face it, the man has given more to the state than any governor in the last two decades but more importantly, he has given more than most citizens of the state! I guess it is old news that the drainage system in Lagos was not properly conceived, fully executed nor frequently maintained and I will not waste your time carrying out from an armchair, an activity which the Fashola team must have given the full attention it deserves.
If I have no answers, I really should ‘pocket my sorrow’ and go back to desktop activism, our greatest pastime. Half way through our journey and deep into my passionate discuss on the logic of road tolling, my passenger made one of those ‘carefree’ remarks that only a good listener would have registered. She said: ‘government should buy the rubbish!’ Here I was trying to explain the logic of canal sizing, the politics of selling land intended for water channels and the need to ban pure water to save the city and my guest’s only response was ‘buy the rubbish’. In one single moment, I could see a solution that is environmentally friendly without destroying the livelihood of thousands of people, without disrupting the social order. In buying the rubbish, the government will be creating mass employment, cleaning up the environment, reducing the risk of flooding and setting an excellent example of people-oriented governance. This is by all means a difficult solution but it is no more difficult that the other alternatives. The beauty of this is that the government can tax the source of the problem, derive revenues from the recycling of the waste, create economic activities with tax benefits and keep the city clean.
In has always amazed me how much metal is recycled in Nigeria. As a child, I recall sneaking out with some ‘home boys’ to scavenge for aluminum because I had heard that you could make a chunk of cash selling it. My adventure came to an abrupt end when I was caught trying to reap the panels off an abandoned bus and had to give away my bagful of the light metal. I have also evaluated companies setting up Steel factories in Nigeria whose only source of raw materials is recycled metals. Once we can attribute a value to garbage, it ceases to be rubbish and will miraculously become scare. We have so many refuse bin scavengers who will gladly redirect their effort towards collecting plastics for recycling if they are assured of a decent reward for their sweat. The government can also set up a processing center for turning waste to just about anything that catches their fancy. I don’t expect the state to dig into it’s overburden purse to pay for this, I expect them to call on the conscientious brand savvy corporations operating in the state to fund the collection centers and the recycling plant. I also expect them to tax each and every end user of plastic packaging to pay for the removal of plastic rubbish from our streets and drainages. These taxes can be applied at the manufacturing stage or in the case of shopping bags, at the point of consumption. We can also encourage, and if need be compel all major retailers to aggressively pursue the use of environmentally friendly packages such as paper bags and reusable cloth bags.
It’s a long road to ending flooding in the metropolis but this is a great starting point. It is the kind of project that will get a CNN mention if carried out successfully. With or without the valuable publicity and the environmental consciousness that this will bring, it is a worthy direction towards adding flesh to our eko ni baje catch phrase.
Abubakar Suleiman, Lagos. 18 July, 2011
POSTED BY ASHBURN AT 3:29 AM.
LABELS: FASHOLA, FLOODING, LAGOS